Kakao in need of shareholder return policy The tech giant has given out $8.38 mil in dividends for years

Translated by Kim So-in 공개 2022-01-24 08:08:53

이 기사는 2022년 01월 24일 08:05 더벨 유료페이지에 표출된 기사입니다.

Kakao Corp, the operator of the nation's dominant mobile messenger app, is in need of a shareholder return plan to appease angry investors after a sharp decline in its stock price due to stock sell-offs by some of Kakao Pay’s executives and possible tighter regulation of online platform companies.

Kakao Corp’s stock price closed at 90,400 won ($75.8) on Wednesday, down 21% since the beginning of the year. The benchmark Kospi fell by 5% in the same period. Kakao Corp’s market capitalization stood at 40 trillion won, which dropped from 70 trillion won in June 2021 and 50 trillion won in early January.

Kakao Corp’s market capitalization increased to 70 trillion won last year thanks to the prolonged pandemic and expectations for initial public offerings (IPO) of its subsidiaries, Kakao Bank and Kakao Pay. Kakao Mobility and Kakao Entertainment also showed rapid growth.

Yet, Kakao Mobility and Kakao Entertainment, which were expected to go public this year, may postpone the timeline as their parent company decided to rethink the timing of IPOs of unlisted subsidiaries in response to public criticism about the recent stock sell-offs by some of Kakao Pay’s executives.

Some pointed out that Kakao Corp should try to come up with a shareholder return plan in a bid to appease angry shareholders considering it has managed its share price solely based on its growth potential. For example, the company has paid out about 10 billion won in dividends for 8 years since 2014. It paid 12.9 billion in dividends as of fiscal year 2020.

It has been difficult for the company to determine its dividend level due to fluctuating profits. In 2019 and 2020, the company recorded a large amount of net losses as impairment losses on intangible assets were reflected. Yet, it still had room to give out dividends as its operating profit increased from tens of billions of won to some 200 billion won in 2019 and 450 billion won in 2020.

The tech giant is expected to pay out a dividend of around 30 won per share even if it raises its dividend in fiscal year 2021 due to its 5-to-1 stock split in April 2021. Kakao Corp has maintained its dividend per share at a 150 won level since 2014. The company’s dividend yield stands at 0.1%, making it an unattractive dividend stock.

Kakao Corp will have to seek a new growth engine as a last resort to boost its stock price. It has recently named Namkoong Whon, head of Kakao Future Initiative, as its new chief executive officer to restore the public’s trust. (Reporting by Seul-gi Kim)
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